How To Manage Cash Flow & 7 Ways To Increase Cash Flow Today!

Speaker, author and management consultant Peter Drucker once said, "You can't manage what you don't measure".  When it comes when it comes to your finances that measurement is cash flow.  In this post I'll cover how to manage cash flow, what options you have to increase cash flow, and how to improve cash flow overall.

Think about it...you track your weight loss by measuring how many pounds you've lost, right?  

If you're trying to get better with money, wouldn't you want to do something similar?

That's where cash flow comes in.

how to manage cash flow

 So what is cash flow?

So what exactly is cash flow?  It’s the flow of money in and out of your business, or in our case, you personal finances.  The money left over after all expenses are paid is your “monthly cash flow”.  

The formula is super simple…. Monthly Income -  Monthly Expenses =  Monthly Cash Flow

Often times it's discussed in the context of managing the cash flow for a business, but conceptually it's the exact same thing.

How to calculate cash flow.

Let's take a look at few example of how to calculate cash flow.  


Current Monthly Income: $4000 

This would be the amount after taxes and other withholdings e.g. insurance, HSA, retirement, etc.  

Current Monthly Expenses:$3000

e.g. housing, food, clothing, utilities, debt servicing, etc, is $3000 a month.


monthly income $4000  - monthly expenses $3000 = $1000


Your monthly cash flow is $1000


Now let’s say your income went up $500 a month...


monthly income $4500 - monthly expenses $3000 = $1500


Your monthly cash flow would be $1500


How about if your expenses went up $500


monthly income $4000 - monthly expenses $3500 = $500


Your monthly cash flow would be $500

So why is it important to know?

Well for one, if you want to know how to manage cash flow, you first need to know what it is.  And as you increase cash flow, you accelerate your ability to a number of things like:

Your monthly cash flow is the rocket fuel to your personal finances.  The more you have, the faster you can go.  Adversely, the less you have, the longer it will take to do any of these.  

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It’s also extremely powerful for making decisions and getting motivated since it lets you quickly identify how long something will take and plan accordingly.  

Let’s say you have a MCF of $1000.

  • How long will it take to save up an emergency fund of $5000?  5 Months
  • How long to save up for a $8000 car? 8 Months
  • How long to pay off $25,000 in Student Loans?  25 Months

What if you increased your cash flow to $2000?

  • How long will it take to save up an emergency fund of $5000?  2.5 Months
  • How long to save up for a $8000 car? 4 Months
  • How long to pay off $25,000 in Student Loans?  12.5 Months

The time to do any of them gets cut in half.  That’s some powerful stuff.

How to improve your cash flow

So how do we increase our monthly cash flow from $1000 to $2000 or higher?  The beauty of knowing the formula is that you already know the answer.

There are only two levers you can pull here to do this.  You either increase your monthly income and/or reduce your monthly expenses.  

Increase your monthly income

  • 1
    Ask for a raise...this is the most impactful thing you can do assuming they say yes 🙂
  • 2
    Take on a part-time job...deliver pizzas, drive for Lyf​t, mow yards.  
  • 3
    Reduce the your paycheck withholdings like 401k*
  • 4
    Start an online business like selling things on Ebay or Etsy...how about that old comic collection?
  • 5
    Dollar Sprout put together a great resource of different ways to make an extra $100 quick.
how to manage cash flow

*Reduce the your paycheck withholdings like 401k

*There are different schools of thought on this subject.  One of the most well known personal finance coaches Dave Ramsey recommends stopping all investing when you are getting out of debt.  


I believe this is a case-by-case decision and you should take into consideration things like employer match, amount of debt, and commitment to getting out of debt fast.  


It's a tough choice, and everyone feels different about it.  That what makes this PERSONAL finance. 

Reduce Your Monthly Expenses

  • 5
    Reduce your must-haves expenses, take on a roommate, reduce your grocery bill, sell your car.
  • 6
    Reduce your nice-to-haves by cutting the cord..no cable, no new clothes,  no eating out.
  • 7
    Pay off your debts - every debt you pay-off increases your monthly cash flow.

Great Read: 99 Ways To Increase Your Income On The Side!

If you're looking for inspiration on ways you can start making money today, i highly recommend you go check out Side Hustle Nation's huge list of 99 Side Hustle Business Ideas You Can Start Today

How to manage cash flow

When you are first starting out, the majority of the energy you spend on learning how to manage cash flow be focused on expense reduction since it provides you much more immediate  number then working on increasing  your income.  

The quickest way to do this is through the creation of a zero-dollar budget, where prior to the month beginning you sit down and... 

  1. First, write down all the money coming in for the month (paychecks, side hustles, etc)
  2. Then, write down all your monthly expenses starting with must haves like food and shelter, all your monthly debt payments, and then nice to haves like new clothes, or eating out.
  3. Subtract all your expenses from your income, and with whatever remaining cash flow you have, apply it against your smallest debt if you are using the debt snowball strategy.

Conclusion

Now that you have a better understanding of what monthly cash flow is, and the power it has over your personal finances, i’d recommend doing one of two things.

  1. If you haven’t created a budget yet, DO IT!  This tool enables you to understand the composition of your cash flow at a very granular, and actionable level and you’ll be able to identify exactly what are your low hanging fruit for increasing it.  If you don’t measure something you won’t ever be able to manage it.  
  2. If you’ve already created a budget, you should pull it up now.  You’re probably going to see each of your expenses as a potential way to increase cash flow.  Once you start seeing those, you’ll be empowered to make real, quick changes to improve it like canceling the unused gym membership, reducing your cable package, or cutting back on grocery spending.

So what do you think?  Do you have any tips?  Let us know by leaving a comment below.  The more we share the more we all can learn.

About the Author

Hello, I'm Ryan Rollins. I've been passionate about personal finance and entrepreneurship for as long as I can remember. After earning my Bachelors of Science in Marketing, I soon found myself at my first software start-up. That experience led to me pursuing an MBA in Entrepreneurship from the University of Louisville, and eventually to a career in product management within the financial services industry, where I've spent the last 8 years focusing on financial education and consumer lending. When I'm not working I enjoy spending as much time as I can with my amazing family, going for long runs around the neighborhood, and develop a portfolio of passive investments and income streams. You can also follow me on twitter @TMPF_Ryan

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